Friday, May 31, 2013

Listen: Hundred Waters - "Visitor"/"Caverns" (Stadium Red Session)

You might remember some time ago, experimental musical mages Hundred Waters' announced a collaboration with Yours Truly, Small Plates Records, and their own OWSLA in which they'd put out a gorgeous red 7" vinyl with two new versions of tracks from their self-titled debut. In honor of the 7" finally making its way out into the world (I got mine mere days ago), how about we listen to them shall we?

If you've seen Hundred Waters any time within the past couple months, they've incorporated (as best they can) these new versions into their set and the results are as beautiful as the finished product. The new version of "Visitor" is an acoustic version featuring several brassy additions, namely clarinet, saxophone, and trombone. Hundred Waters enlist the aid for some extra hands for this version and the results are extraordinary - providing a comfy blanket of sounds for Miglis' vocals to billow over. It's also a unique opportunity to actually truly give the lyrics a listen if you haven't already as the textural layers are stripped back.

Despite "Visitor" being one of my favorite album cuts, there's no denying that the new version of "Caverns" featuring a solo Nicole Miglis on piano and vocals isn't the absolute star of the 7". Cut loose from the rest of the band, Miglis reshapes the track into an unimaginably beautiful version of the album's quiet stunner. Miglis gets to display her incredible piano chops and the results are jaw-dropping.

While Hundred Waters' evershifting textural palette is worthy of all the praise and attention it gets, it's nice to hear the fivesome treading newer, simpler territory and offering up something truly special. If you haven't already, you might want to think about purchasing this limited edition gem here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Listen: Wild Ones - "Curse Over Me"

Portland's Wild Ones have been making big strides away from the blatant sugary pop of their You're A Winner EP as of late. With the details of their upcoming debut Keep It Safe now out in the world, it's looking to be a rather dynamic shift in direction - for the best. After the synthy "Golden Twin", new single "Curse Over Me" plumps ahead in that direction, coming down a bit in sweetness and offering a bit of overcast in Wild Ones' normally sunny skies.

Don't mistake, it's still the spry, slinky pop Wild Ones are proving themselves more and more adept at serving up, it's just the first time the quartet have offered up something with even the slightest hint of emotional tumult. It's a good look for the band and one that's sure to give their upcoming record a lot more versatility.

Wild Ones' forthcoming debut full length Keep It Safe is due out July 9th on Party Damage Records.

Listen: Mister Lies - "Magichour" (ft. KNOWER)

My discovery of Chicago based producer Mister Lies occurred in a strangely roundabout fashion by essentially befriending a bunch of bands/artists/bloggers (Cemeteries, Psychic Twin, Foxes in Fiction, and Rafael at Heart & Soul Blog, in particular) with nothing but good things to say about him and his music. While curiosity led me to check out his recently released debut record Mowgli, the only real takeaway I had from it was "Dionysian and yet despite not really getting into the record, the same constant kind words from Mister Lies' pals is what led me to check out his new single "Magichour"

Featuring Los Angeles duo KNOWER, the slow build to out and out danceability with all its rather subtle touches was enough to win me over from the start. As the track gets more involved, I could only find myself more and more enchanted by the track. KNOWER's Genevieve Artadi's vocals are light and feathery soft and the balance between them and the various layers of the song perfect as the instrumentals rise in intensity, threatening to drown out Artadi and leave her behind before sputtering to a sort of instant reset. It's a pretty nifty effect that actually caused me to pay more attention to the rapidly fading vocals.

Perhaps it was my distrust of laptop music that kept me from truly enjoying Mowgli, who's to say? All that I know if that Nick Zanca keeps making tracks with as much unassuming greatness as "Magichour", I'll continue to pay attention. The ball's in your court, Mister Lies.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Listen: Bowerbirds - "May"

Memorial Day has come and gone, signalling not only the official end of the month of May but the unofficial start of Summer which is really just my roundabout way of saying there's a brand new track from Bowerbirds out now.

The 4th installment of their song-a-month short-form composition experiment "May" shakes off the last vestiges of spring, bright, breezy, and hopeful; not quite giving in to sun-soaked reveries just yet. Instead offering up a sparse piano-centric piece that pumps the breaks a little on the rather poppy direction Phil Moore's been going with these compositions.

Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle (2013)

It's a sort of strange sort of curse that regardless of what British folk songstress Laura Marling does to distance her personal life from that of her music and its subjects that that seems to be the first question on everyone's mind. Even on rather evidently narrative pieces such as I Speak Because I Can and A Creature I Don't Know, people still comb for some kind of personal significance in her words. Perhaps that's because of Marling's incredible knack for lyrical glancing blows, a seemingly unimportant phrase able to cut through Marling's pristine guitar melodies or sweet murmur and deal the listener's heart a crushing blow. With Marling admitting that her fourth and latest album Once I Was An Eagle is a far more honest record than records past, the questions certainly aren't going to stop any time soon.

With a four song intro that essentially behaves as nearly 16 minute lovelorn rhapsody, Marling returns in rare form, stripping her songs of their occasional grim character studies of her past two albums and providing for a far more universal consumption. Her talents for oddly poetic plainspeak fully on display under the helpful assistance of frequent collaborator, producer Ethan Johns. "I Was An Eagle" containing perhaps most rousing, biting lyricism in its "I will not be a victim of romance, I will not be a victim of circumstance, chance or circumstance, romance, or any man who can get his dirty little hands on me". It's enough to relegate the track's poignant metaphors to the background as its clearly the most hard-hitting yet softspoken lyric.

On album opener, "Take the Night Off", Marling's Beast (introduced on A Creature I Don't Know) returns if only in a name-checked fashion, in the track's opening lyric: "You should begone Beast, begone from me". Where Marling spent the whole of A Creature I Don't Know wrestling with the metaphorical Beast and its influence, it returns here accepted with very little struggle as Marling coos "Take the night off and be bad for me". All the while the four cohesive tracks rumble with a sort of Eastern-inspired flavor in Johns instrumental choices (like hurdy gurdy on "I Was An Eagle" or the pervasive but not overwhelming soft tap of hand drums).

By the time you reach fifth track "Master Hunter", Marling's flagrant spurning of all emotion seems justified, the track simmering and filled with a sort of pots and pans percussion. Only to be followed with the flamenco-esque ballad "Little Love Caster" which sort of undermines the surge of badassery and resolute singledom of "Master Hunter". It's a totally sensible, realistic backpedal that sort of forms the backbone of Once I Was An Eagle.

Despite Marling's claims that Once I Was An Eagle is a far more personal record than her past, the album carries the same narrative prowess she's been honing, following a clearly lyrical metamorphosis. Marling still resorts to using characters, drawing the Devil, the aforementioned Beast, and even referencing Undine but she strips them of their supernatural grandeur, relegating them to humanized versions of themselves used to illustrate the rise and fall of her aspirations, reoccurring regrets, and struggles.

It's not clear just how much Marling opens up on Once I Was An Eagle but it acts as an album of beguiling simplicity informed by works past as she confidently blends the lines between storytelling and emotive mood pieces. Once I Was An Eagle serves as meditation, lacking the venomous bite of I Speak Because I Can even it's most finger-pointing of tracks. She's removed from it, seemingly recalling the moments with nostalgia and a clearing distance. It works, providing an impetus to listen to the developing story rather than getting caught up in a flurry of emotion.

 You can stream the album in full over at The Guardian.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Listen: Golden Suits - "Didn't I Warn You"

If there's one thing you should know about me it's that I love Department of Eagles. More than Grizzly Bear, possibly more than Daniel Rossen's solo output though that's debatable. During the press cycle following last year's release of Rossen's solo EP Silent Hour/Golden Mile, Rossen mentioned that aside from working on the new Grizzly Bear record that he'd been helping out his old Department of Eagles partner Fred Nicolaus with his upcoming solo record. Fantastic news. It's no Department of Eagles reunion but damn if I wasn't intrigued, having just recently missed Nicolaus' possible live solo debut at Zebulon.

Now I don't have to wonder anymore. Today sees the official announcement of Nicolaus' solo effort, titled Golden Suits, and the subsequent first single from the upcoming self-titled record. Mostly relegated to general music-making and backing vocals in Department of Eagles, it's nice to hear Nicolaus' on his own. With unique vocals all his own, "Didn't I Warn You" is a complexly multi-layered track, taking its dear sweet time with its setup reveals Nicolaus as far less insistent, vocally at least, than Rossen. The track eases along at its own pace as Nicolaus' vocals pour over on top, syrupy smooth. There's a lot going on in the track but it manages to avoid sounding overtly busy or calling attention to exactly how many things Nicolaus can cram up in there.

Consider me righteously excited for Golden Suits, out August 20th.

(via Under the Radar)

Pitstop: Alex G

There's something to be said for jumping into a music discovery situation almost blind. Two weekends ago, I found myself at Living Bread in Brooklyn for Orchid Tapes inaugural showcase. I ended up there essentially as a tag along with Cemeteries' Kyle Reigle who was in town visiting that weekend and for another opportunity to see newly minted ex-Canadian Foxes in Fiction again after discovering him at Portals/Stadiums & Shrines' incredible CMJ showcase at La Sala. My first hint at the sheer level of awesome music I would consume that night should've been in the fact that the Cemeteries frontman was willing to take a nearly 7 hour cross-state excursion to make it to the event. Despite the multitude of incredible bands that night (R.L. Kelly, Happy Trendy, the aforementioned Foxes in Fiction, Julia Brown, and Coma Cinema), one of my absolute favorites was Philadelphia's Alex G.

It might've been the fact that a mosh pit broke out almost immediately upon the impact of their first note but really, my enjoyment of their set was based on more than that. Featuring pretty laid back indie rock vibes (that functioned as a kind of weird dichotomy to the furious moshing that was occurring in front of the band), my first take away from the band was that they were essentially Pavement. An observation that reeks of shallow comparison, I'll admit. But in "Forever", I heard vestiges of "Gold Soundz" whether imagined or not. A far better comparison might be Why There Are Mountains era Cymbals Eat Guitars (who also share that seemingly unshakeable Pavement-esque classification) sans rugged experimental streak.

Need for comparisons aside (or the lack thereof), Alex G is pleasant, tuneful but certainly not vacant indie rock everyone can get behind. Written and recorded by the band's eponymous frontman, Alex G's music is angular slow-burning lo-fi jams that are never long enough to overstay their welcome, instead able to enjoy limitless replay value unless you have the self control required to break yourself away.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Camp Counselors - Huntress (2013)

If I'm being totally honest, my discovery and initial listening to Cemeteries frontman Kyle Reigle's side project Camp Counselors was inspired by little more than a sort of dare. Despite the fact that Reigle was incredibly proud of it, when discussing Huntress he seemed almost certain that it wouldn't be liked, especially by me in particular. Described loosely as a set of half-inaccessible jumble of rather synth-heavy tunes inspired by old John Carpenter movies and other horror movie soundtracks, I'll say I wasn't really all that interested in the project until Reigle specifically singled me out as a potential detractor. Challenge freaking accepted.

To Reigle's surprise as well as my own, when he released the virtual 7" featuring the two Huntress tracks "02/05/11" and "Oslo", I was drawn in. Maybe it was mostly in part due to my love of intelligently-approached concepts, but though I didn't go absolutely crazy about the digital single when I heard it I made a mental note to actually check out Huntress. It wasn't until I heard the next single "Attean" featuring Psychic Twin's Erin Fein that I knew for sure that my interest in the album was something more than just curiosity and a strange sort of defensive reaction to being told flat out I wouldn't like something before I had even given it a taste.

Truthfully, I can't imagine why Reigle would be that nervous about the accessibility of Huntress. Even without an extensive knowledge of all the horror movies and their compositions that inspired the album or a like of electronic music in really anything but the most basic capacity, there's really not much to dislike in Huntress. The Camp Counselors record performs in a similar way to Reigle's Cemeteries work - mostly seamless texture-laden tracks that are oddly moving despite occasionally obscured lyrics. You don't have to make out what Reigle is singing exactly to be effected by what's going on musically and that's the signs of some pretty top notch musicianship.

Filled with Reigle's increasingly characteristic swooping vocal lines (and Fein's on the aforementioned "Attean") but grounded by meaty, bass-y synth lines, Huntress is a rather solid half hour of music. The majority of the album's tracks stretch across more than your standard 3 minute radio-friendly fare but they don't seem excessive in that regard, gently unfolding unfettered by any notion of time constraint; how music is supposed to. Even the album's interludes "An Absence" (the first part of the track "An Absence/Fawn"), "Stained Glass", and "An Absence #2" feel like they belong, giving the album a consistent flow. Huntress is a pretty strong album regardless of where your interests lie, able to stand on its own merits apart from its pretty neat concept. A hallmark of a great concept record.

You can listen/stream/download the first album Huntress from Cemeteries' Kyle Reigle's Camp Counselors side project via Bandcamp. The album is out today digitally with a physical release to soon follow on Reigle's own Snowbeast Records.

Listen: Typhoon - "Dreams of Cannibalism"

It sure has been awhile since we've heard from Portland folk outfit Typhoon! Since dropping the first single for the upcoming album White Lighter way back in October, the twelvesome have remained pretty quiet. That's all over now, hopefully, as their brand new single "Dreams of Cannibalism" comes with the much anticipated album release announcement.

Whereas "Common Sentiments" sort of hinted at more of the same wholesome Typhoon goodness, "Dreams of Cannibalism" quickly debunks that assumption. Featuring The Decemberists' Chris Funk on lap steel, "Dreams of Cannibalism" is far more than your standard Typhoon track. The minimal use of its plentiful members and emotional life-affirming lyrics aside, "Dreams of Cannibalism" is a equal parts a step into previously untread territory from the band as the rather darker-tinged track consistently changes form. Leftovers from Typhoon past are here to stay however, there's the rather hopeful gleam that manages to slip out regardless of how lyrically murky the the track gets as well as the buoyant brass that's virtually a staple of any truly great Typhoon song. "Dreams of Cannibalism" essentially sets up White Lighter as album sure to full of surprises.

Typhoon's much-awaited upcoming full length album White Lighter will be out August 20th on Roll Call Records.

Brazos - Saltwater (2013)

Since my discovery of former Austin indie pop trio Brazos when they played a how with similar namesake ARMS last summer, I've heard predominantly newer songs in their live set. Considering they were completely an utterly new to me at the time and my only impression of them beforehand was a great big seal of approval from ARMS frontman Todd Goldstein that wasn't really problem. When I acquainted myself more with Brazos' distinctive brand of intelligent, laid back sunny pop rock, the fact that I couldn't consistently hear what were shaping up to be some of my favorite songs stung a bit.

Now, a little more than a half a year after the trio finally rapped up production of their follow up to 2009's Phosphorescent Blues, Saltwater is out in the world. The first question fans of Brazos might ask themselves is how exactly is Saltwater different than Phosphorescent Blues? Well, the answer is actually not very much. Aside from being a completely new set of top-notch tracks. The real difference between the debut and this new record out nearly three years later is far subtler than any sort of radical new change in direction.

On Saltwater, lyricist Martin Crane remains at his astute best mixing poppy accessibility with unpredictable and exciting songwriting directions. He never quite aspires or attains the level of poetry of "The Observer" but that's perhaps for the best, especially when you remember that it's someone else's poem set to music. A trope that's interesting when employed sparingly. Crane's inventive streak continues as he borrows characters from Melville's Moby Dick in the album's title track "Saltwater"

A lot of what makes Saltwater truly different from Phosphorescent Blues is in subtle textural play. Crane and company dress up their already pretty dynamic tracks with occasional synthy swirls, electronic blips, and other seemingly unimportant minutiae but really they provide the tracks with a much appreciated added dimension. Each and every track on the 9 track sophomore record, from the swaggering "Always On" and "Valencia" to the sparse emotive showcases of "Deeper Feelings" and "Long Shot", is a real winner, a slice of summer-invoking guitar-lead pop with substance. Fans of Brazos are sure not to find the new album lacking in any way, instead improving upon many of the strengths of their debut and incorporating aspects of their fantastic live set while new listeners will find in Saltwater a brand new band and album to love. This I absolutely guarantee.

You can listen to Saltwater streaming in full at Spin Magazine. Brazos' brilliant record Saltwater is out tomorrow, May 28th on Dead Oceans. Scoop it up and drink it down, it's a keeper.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Listen: Steve Gunn - "Water Wheel"

Before Daughn Gibson took a break from recording his upcoming album to contribute a mix for All Around Sound's recent third birthday I had absolutely no idea Steve Gunn existed. Much less any idea of the level of musicianship contained within the single man. Daughn had spoken highly of him and his upcoming album Time Off and its first single "Water Wheel" certainly doesn't disappoint. Gunn's comparable guitar skills are matched only by his impressive narrative powers, capturing the dusty, plainsy rambles explored by artists like Carter Tanton (most notably in "Murderous Joy") and William Tyler. It's no wonder he's earned the respect and championing of recent critical guitar rock darling Kurt Vile. It's well earned and well deserved.

Time Off is out June 18th on Paradise of Bachelors.

Listen: Son Lux - "TEAR"

It's been awhile since a proper release from ballet composer and electronic songsmith Ryan Lott aka Son Lux. Since the release of 2011's sophomore effort We Are Rising, Lott has had his hands in all sorts of different pots - appearing in the collaborative trio s/s/s with Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti on Beak & Claw as well as putting out a remix album of the aforementioned We Are Rising, it's hard to imagine the man had time to compile a whole other album worth of material.

And yet, Lott has done that and more. Releasing his third full length Lanterns this October on Joyful Noise, Lott has offered up "TEAR", a two part piece and non album track.

Continuing in his characteristic chopped and screwed style, the real impact of Son Lux's dazzling new track is the beauty contained within - reaching out among the plethora of inorganic sounds. Its lyrics, accompanied by a svelte laid back jazz drum line, properly sums up Lott's songwriting style.

"I'll tear you apart, make beautiful things from pieces of you" morphs in the  rather sinister "I'll tear you apart until you see what I see" of "TEAR Part 2". It's a rather excellent shift that manages to maintain the stunning beauty the lyrics only hint at but the tracks truly revel in.

Son Lux's "TEAR" is available now as a digital single (the physical 7 is unfortunately sold out) on Joyful Noise and Son Lux's upcoming third album Lanterns is out in October on also on Joyful Noise.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Listen: Laura Marling - "Once"

British songstress Laura Marling continues to reveal track after track of her behemoth 16 track Once I Was An Eagle, this time dishing out track "Once".

On A Creature I Don't Know , Marling started to incorporate some decidedly American stylings (most notably in the jazzy piano riffs on "I Was A Card") and "Once" continues in a similar vein, recalling the blues in Marling's lingering drawl. Marling promised a far more stripped back album this time and "Once" is a pretty stellar example of that - sparse and far more openly featuring Marling's vocals than any of the tracks we've heard thus far.

Thank heavens we've only about a  week more to wait before the rest of Marling's narrative beast is uncovered. It's sure to be worth the wait.

Once I Was An Eagle is out May 28th on Ribbon Music.

Listen: Cemeteries - "Alberta" (ft. Foxes in Fiction)

Last year's CMJ I found myself in the most unexpected of places: a showcase put together by Portals and Stadiums & Shrines held in the back of a restaurant where lounging and relaxing was encouraged.

The night consisted of a handful of ambient-leaning bands that really helped cultivate the relaxing atmosphere the showcase sought to achieve. It ended up being one of my absolutely favor stops during the hustling and bustling fest.

Western New York based Cemeteries and Toronto export Foxes in Fiction ended up being two of my favorite acts from that night and it seems I'm not alone in that. Over at Stadiums & Shrines the two were tapped to contribute on a collaborative work for S&S ongoing Dream feature - creating a track based on a handmade  collage.

The result is a track very much in the same wheel house of the two artists - beautifully unfolding, enchantingly captivating dreamy soundscapes with just enough of a pop element to drive the tune forward towards a pleasant conclusion. Swooping vocals glance off one another like a sort of musical northern lights amongst a billowing, ever shifting electronic base.

Enjoy the wonderfully immersive stunner from Cemeteries and Foxes in Fiction made possible by those lovely folks over at Stadiums & Shrines. (Via Stadiums & Shrines)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Listen: Camp Counselors - "Attean" (ft. Psychic Twin)

Cemeteries mastermind Kyle Reigle has a brand new side project. If the sleek, dream pop stylings of his debut album The Wilderness was up your alley (which it totally should be - it was amazing) then the forthcoming album Huntress under the Camp Counselors moniker should tickle your fancy as well.

Inspired by old sci-fi and horror movie soundtracks, Camp Counselors takes a far more synth-heavy approach to the atmospheric pop Reigle dabbles in. "Attean", the latest track from the upcoming Huntress, sees Reigle pairing up with Psychic Twin's Erin Fein for a rather accessible supernatural-tinged synth-pop jam.

Fein's involvement is a subtle but notable touch providing another bit of coloring to an already modestly arranged textural palette. The two vocals mostly stand apart which is rather unexpected twist in such a collaboration but when they do occasionally interweave it feels properly earned.

It's enough to single-handedly usher in major excitement for Huntress which is slated for release later this month on Reigle's own Snowbeast Records. (Via Portals)

Listen: The Dodos - "Confidence"

San Francisco duo The Dodos are most know for their complex heavily percussive leaning rock pop and that's served as a pretty apt qualifier up until now.

"Confidence", the first single from their fifth studio album and Polyvinyl debut Carrier, takes a rather different approach. Relying far more on Meric Long's vocals accompanied by his ever present guitar. The guitar work isn't the clamoring, noisy beast of songs past either - instead offering a soft padding for Long's serpentine plod. The Dodos' trademark cacophony isn't completely abandoned however - waiting until just the right moment to elevate the track to a fierce stomper. The waiting makes it that much more enjoyable.

Welcome back Dodos, we've missed you.

Carrier is out August 27th on Polyvinyl.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Listen: Bowerbirds - "April"

Another month has come and gone meaning many things - the most important of which is another track in Bowerbirds short-form song experiment Small Songs from a Small Tiny House.

The third contribution, appropriately titled "April" introduces a far more pop savvy Bowerbirds than we've ever been privy to. They never go full on pop but there's undeniably catchy hooks and a simple but perfectly utilized recurring "oo" alongside some downright twangy, jangly guitar bits. The melodies still unfold like sprawling nature paths and the those trademark harmonies all present and accounted for but it's just the kind of brilliant pairing of old and new that has my hopes and anticipation rising exponentially for full length number four.

These songs might just be little experiments in somewhat more accessible songcraft but I have no doubt they're easing the way for more art-pop gems from the Bowerbirds.